Educators, not politicians, should be in charge of Florida state policy on student testing and achievement, school grades and accountability, and a learning environment where teachers and children win encouragement even in the face of the most difficult challenges -- from poverty and parental failures to neighborhood gangs and crime.
But that's not the case.
Florida's politically driven playbook on education appears more punitive than positive. The outcries from school superintendents, teachers and parents fall on deaf ears in Tallahassee, which as been the case for years.
This year, new issues surfaced due to the state's implementation of Florida State Standards. The rollout of the new tests based on those standards have been deeply tarnished by glitches, from computer breakdowns to grading concerns. School superintendents across the state complained loudly, just a few day ago expressing they've "lost faith" with Florida's accountability system.
In early September, superintendents suggested the results from the spring exams were worthless, this despite a company's determination that tests were valid to use for teacher evaluations, school scores and achievement levels.
The state paid $600,000 for that study by Alpine Testing Solutions, a report deemed suspicious as an "independent" report by some state senators. That private review of the failings in the testing system, which included log-in problems for students and a cyber attack, found "serious systemic issues" yet the test scores were still found valid -- but only for teacher evaluations and school grades, not for individual students.
That baffling review earned legislative and educator scorn, but the Florida Department of Education stood solidly by the report in public statements. Are those parallel universes where the admission of some failures can be ignored and blindingly weak justifications can be highlighted into defending a defective system? Is this not politics as usual?
The state board of education won't finalize these tainted test scores until later, expected in January. Those appointed political positions, not answerable to voters and residents, have a few months to right a wrong.
As Herald education reporter Meghin Delaney stated Wednesday, state school superintendents want a suspension of the results from the spring 2015 tests and an extensive review of Florida's public school accountability system. That would be a remarkable development, considering, as Delaney noted, the multiple changes that have occurred over the past few years.
Manatee County students did not score well in those new tests, with more than half dropping into the bottom 50 percent statewide.
On public school education, too many lawmakers pursue political agendas, not wise public policy geared to truly improving student achievement.
One of those agendas looms. The state demands that school systems institute computer-based testing but did not provide funding for new technology.
The Manatee County School Board is asking the state to delay this new mandate until the district can replace outdated computers, though that might take three years.
As Florida witnessed with the failed rollout of computer testing with the new Florida State Standards Assessment, this should be an easy decision for lawmakers: either fully fund technology now (through state funds, not local property taxes) or delay the requirement.